New Lives in a New Land - Chaldean Community Foundation

New Lives in a New Land
The Chaldean Community Foundation’s Campaign to Build a Strong Community
A people in crisis
Since the war in Iraq began in 2003, Chaldeans (Iraq’s
indigenous people, Eastern Rite Catholics) have lived a
precarious existence. Chaldeans are an ancient Christian people
whose ancestral homeland includes the Nineveh Plains in
northeastern Iraq with the city of Mosul at its heart. Chaldeans
and other Iraqi minorities have been persecuted by radical
extremists and most recently by Islamic State terrorists.
Unfortunately, history is repeating itself. These minorities were
subjected to the same type of persecution a hundred years ago at
the hands of the Ottoman Empire, during which an estimated
400,000 Chaldeans/Assyrians were killed.
Once again these persecuted peoples have been forced to leave their homes, their jobs and
most of their possessions and take refuge in camps in Iraqi Kurdistan, Turkey, Lebanon
and other countries in the Middle East. While in these camps, refugees are not allowed to
work or go to school. More than a million Chaldeans have fled Iraq and are living as
displaced people around the world. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees
(UNHCR) is working to resettle Chaldeans to other countries, a process that can take
several years. Meanwhile, people languish in overcrowded, unheated camps with poor
sanitation and no opportunity to provide for themselves or their families.
The violence against Christians in the Middle East escalates daily. In February 2015, the
extremist group known as ISIS or ISIL drove thousands of Chaldean Syriac Assyrians
from their villages in northeastern Syria and took as many as two hundred people hostage.
Actions like these will continue to increase the flood of displaced people seeking refuge in
other countries.
Portrait of a Refugee
Emad fled Iraq with his wife and three children and arrived in the United
States in November 2013. He grew up in Qaraqosh, a Christian village
that was captured by ISIS this past June. In Iraq, Emad was a teacher,
a painter and a cartoonist. His cartoons, which were published in local
newspapers and on the Internet, reflected his pro-democracy liberal
views. His views made him a target of threats and he was forced to take
his family and flee.
Emad and his family have found a home in the Chaldean community in
Southeast Michigan. He has a job working as a dishwasher in a
restaurant and his children go to school. “I want for my children to grow
up in a society that values human life,” he said.
Now Emad is no longer afraid that the cartoons he publishes will make orphans of his children.
Thanks to Michigan’s established Chaldean community, many refugees are seeking
resettlement in the United States. More than 30,000 refugees have arrived in Michigan
since 2007, with approximately 400 Chaldean refugees continuing to arrive each month.
A safe harbor for weary refugees
In 2011, the Chaldean Community Foundation (CCF) opened a small supportive services
center in a strip mall in Sterling Heights, Michigan. The CCF, a 501(c)3 organization and
the charitable arm of the Chaldean American Chamber of Commerce, located the Refugee
Acculturation Sustainability and Training (RAST) office in Sterling Heights because it was
close to where many of the recent Chaldean refugees had found housing. The CCF
expected to serve about 400 people a year by coordinating English as a second language
(ESL) classes, organizing job training, providing access to health care and helping refugees
gain their independence and become less dependent on state and federal assistance.
Instead of serving the anticipated 1,600 people over the last four years, the center’s staff
have provided assistance to ten times that amount as more than 16,000 individuals walked
through the doors for
assistance in 2014 alone.
RAST caseworkers
provided the following
services during the 2014
fiscal year (November 1
to October 31):
Filed 4,034
RAST clients at an ESL class
Conducted 1,168 job
placement interviews and placed 345 clients in full-time jobs (a placement rate of
Enrolled 203 students in ESL classes
Provided $92,000 in auto loans through the Chaldean Loan Fund program
Arranged free medical services for 231 patients
Provided 2,600 no-cost prescriptions valued at $12,000
All this with office space and a staff designed to serve a maximum of 400 people a year!
With the needs of current refugees, CCF must expand both services and facilities to meet
demand. Because of the quality of service provided by the CCF staff, more than 15% of
the walk-ins are non-Chaldean and everyone who walks through the door is assisted.
Expanding capacity to meet the rising tide
The CCF and Chaldean leaders throughout the community are committed to providing
assistance both to refugees already living in our region and to the thousands on their way
here from the war-torn Middle East. To serve these people quickly, minimize additional
suffering, and help them recover their dignity and independence, we need to expand our
We are launching a $5 million comprehensive campaign that
seeks support from corporations, foundations and individuals.
With these additional resources we will:
Construct an 11,500-square-foot community center in Sterling
Heights – $3 million
The new Chaldean Community Center will be the new
home for a range of support services for Chaldeans,
refugees and others who seek assistance with
immigration, housing assistance, free or reduced-cost
medical and mental health care, ESL and acculturation
classes, assistance and advocacy for special needs
refugees, and many more services that help vulnerable
people stabilize their lives and become self-sufficient once again.
The Community Center will serve as a gathering place not only for refugees but
also as a place where Chaldeans from around the region can come together and
share their experiences and traditions.
The center will be the first of its kind in this region for the growing Chaldean
population that just ten years ago had four Chaldean Catholic churches and now has
twelve. The region has also seen its population grow from 75,000 to 150,000. The
center will allow the community to become more proactive to the growing needs of
the Chaldean community both locally and abroad.
Strengthen the Chaldean Loan Fund – $1 million
Since it began in 2013, the Chaldean Loan Fund has extended $92,000 worth of
loans to Chaldean refugees. Modeled after the Hebrew Free Loan, the Chaldean
Loan Fund is designed to provide low-interest car loans and scholarships to
community members for the purpose of purchasing used vehicles, starting a
business or furthering their education. With a reliable car an individual can get to
their job and support their family. With a small loan, individuals can start a
business and begin earning an income. By furthering their education, people will
have an opportunity to reach for a brighter future. The loans may be small but they
are often a critical first step toward becoming independent and free of public
By growing the Chaldean Loan Fund we will be able to help more refugees earn a
living and strengthen their independence. Currently, the loan fund has mainly been
providing vehicle loans for individuals who have found jobs with the assistance of
RAST. It will grow to provide loans for small business startups to support
entrepreneurship in a community that already owns more than 15,000 businesses in
the state of Michigan.
Develop permanent housing for resettled refugees – $1 million
The CCF is working with local and state agencies and developers to finance a $10
million housing project to provide permanent homes to resettled Chaldeans and
other Iraqi refugees. The project would include 100 or more units and include a
community center that could also provide support services to refugees.
The Foundation is in the process of seeking an appropriate site and securing
financing for this large-scale project to house the growing number of refugees. As
soon as a site is selected, the Foundation intends to build a village that will attract
many Chaldean bakeries, restaurants and coffee shops. One area being considered
has been known historically as Chaldean Town and is located on 7 Mile and
Woodward in Detroit.
Currently the CCF has more than 1,100 people on a waiting list for long-term
housing. With the increasing number of refugees arriving each month, the waiting
list is expected to grow.
Together we can do so much more
The Chaldean community has welcomed the new arrivals by opening their homes,
volunteering their time, and making individual contributions. Members of the Chaldean
American Association for Health Professionals have given their time and professional
services, St. Thomas Chaldean Catholic Diocese provided matching funds to the Chaldean
Loan Fund, and the Adopt-A-Refugee-Family have raised more than $5
million to aid displaced refugees throughout the Middle East and more recently those who
have been impacted by the Islamic State. But the tide of refugees continues to rise and
daily swamps the available resources.
In the 1920s Chaldeans arrived in Metro Detroit drawn by jobs in the automotive industry.
A second larger wave of Chaldean immigrants arrived in the 1960s when Saddam
Hussein’s Baath party came to power in Iraq. Before the current wave of refugees, our
region’s Chaldean population was more than 121,000 strong. Chaldeans are entrepreneurs
and business owners, doctors and lawyers. They own more than 15,000 businesses and
contribute hundreds of millions of dollars annually to our local economy.
Our goal is to help the current wave of Iraqi Christian and Chaldean refugees become as
independent and productive as members of the established Chaldean community have
proven to be. We can no longer manage alone. We are seeking assistance from
corporations, foundations and individuals from across southeast Michigan. Together we
can do so much more.